Poker, which boasts an estimated 50 million players in the United States alone, gets an additional boost with the emergence of three card poker, also known as tri-card poker, or simply, tri-poker.

3 Card Poker Betting Tips

To start with, the house has a 3.4% advantage in 3-card poker. Either way, your three-card hand needs to be one pair or better—to be entitled to a payout, in the case of a Pair Plus, and to have a chance of beating the dealer’s hand, in the case of an Ante/Play.

Optimal Three Card Poker Strategy

You should play a Queen-six-four or higher. Do not play with anything lower. (See optimal Ante/Play strategy below.)

Also, If you are holding a Queen or something better, make a wager in the “Play” spot. If not, you should just fold. (See optimal Ante/Play strategy below.)

Dealer qualifies with his Queen on about 66% of his hands.

Four of his 10 “Ante” hands are going to get the Ante bonus.

You should also know that lower payouts – like in Pair Plus, are mostly being used in lots of establishments that like to double and triple the house edge vs the customer.

So keep away from games with a Pair + payout of only three to one for a Flush combination instead of four to one.

Be on a lookout for full payout three card games.

3 Card Poker Probabilities

Hand Combinations Probability
Straight Flush 48 0.0021719
Three of a Kind 52 0.0023529
Straight 720 0.0325792
Flush 1096 0.0495928
Pair 3744 0.1694118
Queen to Ace High 9720 0.4398190
Jack High or Less 6720 0.3040724
Pair Plus Non-Strategy & Unequal Bets

In a Pair Plus, your only deliberate concern is how much money to bet. Hence, the Pair Plus non-strategy. Equal bets are expected, and safe. Like, you wager two units for Ante and Play; 1 unit for Pair Plus. What you can do is post what are known as unequal bets. It is allowed in most casinos, and best for handling the volatile win/loss situation in Pair Plus. Say, if you bet more units on Pair Plus than on Ante/Play, you attempt to secure the edge more aggressively. A favored practice is to up your conservative ratio bets slowly while they are going well in order to have a headstart, and then get all fired up and start to fatten up the Pair + wagers. At full payout, the house edge is a low of under 3 1/2% for Pair Plus, which is not worse than at any other poker table. Do not expect to live off your winnings on a $5 wager but the generous payouts should give you some kind of a pay hand maybe 25% of the time.

Optimal Ante/Play Strategy & Loss Limits

Optimal strategy in Ante/Play advises you to play within loss limits. That is, play hands that have negative expectations, namely, Q-6-4 through K-Q-10—as opposed to those with positive expectations, like Ace High or better . The logic goes that you stand to lose less by playing Q-6-4 or higher and lose more in forfeited ante bets by not playing it. The house advantage is an okay 3.4% for Ante/Play using optimal strategy on high-card-only hands, which is not a bad deal. You can lose 8.66% of your original bet yet win 5.29% on bonus payoffs. All in all, it can make a more beneficial hand in the long term, regardless of the bonus payout table.

You might wonder why optimal strategy begins with Q-6-4 and not, say, Q-7-3. Simply put, Q-7-3 is greater than Q-6-4. In poker, hands are always scored according to the highest card first, the second highest next, the third highest, and so forth, when more than three cards are involved. Between Q-6-4 and Q-7-3, the highest cards are both Queens and negate each other. The second highest cards are then scored to break the tie, in which case, a 7 beats a 6. The third highest cards do not matter in this case because the score is already resolved by the second ones. Q-6-4 is the borderline strategic hand because, if you raise on Q-6-3, you can expect to lose 1.00255 units, which is more than the 1 unit lost by folding. But if you raise on Q-6-4, the expected loss is .993378, which is less than the 1 unit lost by folding.

Raising on any Queen or better, also known as the mimic-the-dealer strategy, brings the house edge to 3.45%, which still is not bad although slightly higher than optimal strategy. Raising on everything, or playing blind, results in a house edge of 7.65%.